Maria Kim believes that, too often, students are all talk and no action. Particularly when it comes to drug prevention.
So as the chairman of education for Save Our Students, the Hoover High junior tries to help those who refuse to help themselves. SOS sponsors "dry parties," where no alcohol is allowed, and "say no to drugs" week. However, the organization is not there to preach, but to teach, Kim said.
"Enough people tell them that drugs are bad," Kim said. "We come from the point of view that there are people at Hoover who care. We want to get people off drugs even if it's for one day. We know that there is something better out there for them. That's what we're always struggling for and worrying about, trying to find that something."
For Kim there have been many successes.
During the tennis season she placed second in the Pacific League individuals tournament. And currently she is averaging 12 points a game as the starting point guard on the basketball team. However academics takes precedent over athletics, she said. Kim has a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to apply to Stanford.
"I feel more proud when I get an academic award," she said. "I look at it from the standpoint that I'm learning something and it's contributing to my future. I have this attitude about academics and sports. Academics comes first for me."
But athletics aren't far behind.
The 5-foot, 4-inch Kim is a three-year starter on the basketball team and was named second-team All-Pacific League last season. She has played softball for the past seven years, including her sophomore season at Hoover, and has been active in volleyball. Kim has devoted the most time to tennis. She said her busy schedule has been a key to her success.
"I'm managing my time really well," Kim said. "If I had nothing else to do I'd go crazy. I like being on the run and being rushed. When you have that much pressure you seem to do better.
"I do a lot of outside things with the community. I learn from that a lot more at times. Because, like times when you help the handicapped kids, that's where the big accomplishment comes from. There are a lot of things that you can't learn in school."
And that is what Joel Paco realized when he took over as tennis coach at Hoover this season.
"She helped me so much this season," Paco said. "When I talk to her I don't think of her as a high school student. She's so mature it's hard to believe she's only 16."
Hoover girls basketball Coach Bob Henry agrees.
"Her maturity level is above and beyond the majority of students," Henry said. "She came out late because of tennis, but she is really catching on. She's playing with confidence and really orchestrating the offense.
"She's the best point guard around."
And maybe the most motivated.
Kim said she feels as if time is running out. She seems to feel the need to make sudden and drastic improvement, particularly on the tennis court. Last summer she did not play in tournaments sanctioned by the United States Tennis Assn. The USTA ranks Southern California players based on points earned in tournaments. Because she did not play last summer, she earned no points and is not ranked by the USTA. With college scholarships on the line, rankings become increasingly important. Last month she entered a USTA 16s tournament at Cal State Northridge. And won.
"I'm looking for a ranking right now," Kim said. "I had a coach for a long time. But when I have a coach I rely on him for mental toughness and tactics. I think it's helped me mentally and moved my game up a lot not having a coach. But my mechanics need a lot of improvement."
She has not confined her improvement to the tennis court. She is an integral part of Hoover's basketball team, which won its first seven games this season.
"Our only barrier is in realizing our potential," Kim said. "I know at times coach gets frustrated when we goof around at practice. Sometimes we don't think we are going to win."
Kim has taken measures to ensure personal success on and off the court.
"A lot of my friends join clubs because it looks good on their records," Kim said. "I have that temptation also."
However, she is mostly motivated by accomplishment. Projects such as Save Our Students make her drive even harder.
"Teen-agers want to experiment because of the peer pressure," Kim said of drug and alcohol use. "But a lot of it has to do with responsibility. Each time you do that you're letting down on your responsibility. If you live in your parents' house and eat their food, you owe something to them. And you owe something to your friends. Each time you do drugs you're escaping from that."